Thank you, Mr. President. Let me first thank Special Representative Ould-Abdallah for his informative update on the situation in Somalia and for his critical work monitoring and reporting under often danger conditions. Let me also welcome Foreign Minister Omar and Commissioner Lamamra back to the Council and thank them for their informative statements.
The United States particularly condemns in the strongest terms the continuing military offensives against the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia which are designed to overthrow the TFG's legitimate authority by force.
The United States particularly condemns al-Shaabab’s July 19 raids on and forced closure of the UNDP, UNDSS and UNPOS offices in Wajid and Baidoa, during which communications equipment, automobiles and supplies were looted, as well as its May 17 raid of the UNICEF compound in Jowhar town, which remains occupied by the militia.
We are very concerned by reports that al-Shaabab is recruiting seasoned fighters from abroad and collaborating with al-Qaeda to remove the TFG. Al-Shaabab and other extremists have ratcheted up bomb attacks and targeted assassinations to spread fear in an attempt to intimidate the Somali people into submission. There are troublesome reports of recent violence by extremists not only in Mogadishu, but also of renewed fighting in the central regions of Somalia and in its strife to forcefully gain power al-Shaabab has even recruited Somali children to take up arms.
We second Special Representative’s call to donors for urgent military and financial support to the TFG and AMISOM. Supporting AMISOM should be central to the international community’s strategy of stabilizing Mogadishu and supporting the Somali peace process. We thank AMISOM for its brave and critical work in the face of continuing danger, and my government urges donors to fulfill the pledges made at the April security conference in Brussels to address the continuing threat to regional stability posed by extremists. Currently AMISOM is four battalions short of its mandated strength of nine infantry battalions, or a little over half of its mandated strength of 8000 troops. The United States welcomes the pledges made by Sierra Leone and Malawi to contribute one battalion each to AMISOM, and thanks Uganda and Burundi for their roles, particularly Burundi for the steps it is taking to contribute a third battalion to help strengthen AMISOM’s capacity.
Mr. President, we are deeply concerned about the worsening humanitarian situation in Somalia, including the estimated 200,000 people who had recently returned to Mogadishu, only to again be displaced when the fighting began anew. The violence makes critical food and other humanitarian assistance more challenging, and sometimes impossible, to distribute to the 3.2 million Somalis who require it. The United States deplores violence against humanitarian agencies and staff, in particular al Shaabab's May 17 raid on the UNICEF compound which resulted in the destruction of thousands of vaccines intended for Somali women and children and nutritional supplements intended for the most vulnerable women and children.
The United States is committed to addressing the humanitarian situation and has provided nearly $149 million in food and non-food emergency assistance since the start of our current fiscal year. We urge the international community to contribute to the Consolidated Appeal for Somalia, which as of June 30, covers only 40 percent of the $984 million requested.
In spite of these challenges, the United States is encouraged by President Sharif's continuing efforts to reach out to opposition groups that wish to join the national reconciliation process, and we welcome the TFG’s Declaration of Cooperation with the Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’a. We also welcome the TFG’s institution-building efforts, as well as steps taken to hold Parliamentary and Cabinet sessions despite increasing attacks in Mogadishu.
On piracy, we are concerned by reports by the International Maritime Bureau of an exponential increase in activity, as well as the reports of the use of more sophisticated weapons. We must continue to prosecute suspected pirates -- piracy is without question a symptom of as well as a contributing factor to the instability and insecurity in Somalia; without stability in Somalia, there can be no durable resolution of the piracy problem. Nonetheless my government believes the paying of ransom simply perpetuates piracy. The United States does not offer concessions to hostage takers whether they are driven by political or financial motives, and we encourage other states to take a similar position.
Finally, we remain deeply concerned about Eritrea’s actions in the region, particularly in Somalia. The Monitoring Group has noted in its reports that Eritrea has provided funding, weapons, and training to armed insurgents in Somalia.
Like others here, the United States has repeatedly stated that we remain willing to engage the Eritrean government should it end its destabilizing activities in the Horn of Africa and take steps toward improved regional relations. Unfortunately, Eritrea has thus far refused these offers. And the window is rapidly closing.
Thank You, Mr. President.
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